September 23, 2014
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Hall of Fame seeks to insure musicians

In a recent press release, the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame has announced a program to provide health care for professional musicians.

“With an issue as important as affordable health care for Rhode Islanders, it’s no wonder that many people have been working to make it a reality,” according to the release. “And, while many individuals from all walks of life face this national problem, board members of the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame (RIMHOF) have decided to do something about it and try to take care of their own.”

RIMHOF Board member and musician Don “D.C.” Culp explains, “The Tune In & Tune Up Health Awareness Program grew from a sincere and longtime concern to bring professional Rhode Island musicians, including myself, an alternative to high-cost health insurance. At a 2011 advisory board meeting, I first brought up the idea of joining together some type of affordable health care with a health awareness information center.”

Culp continues, “The idea was met with great enthusiasm but also a realization of the greatest obstacle to overcome – programs with very high monthly fees or high co-pays, which make them far from affordable for most musicians.”

Designed for Rhode Island’s professional active or retired musician community, as well as music industry professionals, the “Tune In & Tune Up” program will offer free interactive workshops and health forums focusing on musicians’ issues as well as a website with health-related information. By presenting their program membership card, musicians will also receive discounts on retail items from participating outlets. But it is their partnership with Dr. Zaheer A. Shah’s Access Basic Care (ABC) Initiative, an existing health care program that provides affordable primary, urgent and preventative health care, that has Hall of Fame board members most excited.

“The Music Hall of Fame is truly looking forward to partnering ‘Tune In & Tune Up’ with Dr. Shah’s Access Basic Care Initiative. Early on in the process, Dr. Mark Andreozzi, a leading ear, nose and throat doctor, joined on as the medical consultant for the ‘Tune In & Tune Up’ program. After researching several models, we discovered that Dr. Shah’s initiative was already in existence, providing very affordable health care at two local facilities that he runs.”

RIMHOF Board member and musician Russell Gusetti said, “With the partnering of these two basic health care programs, the possibilities are huge that Rhode Island musicians and industry professionals will finally have a health care option they can afford. And we want to be very clear, there is no financial gain for RIMHOF with this partnership ... our sole interest is helping our fellow musicians, it is straight from the heart.” 

Gusetti said musicians go without health insurance or health care of any kind because they can’t afford it.

“So year after year, we end up holding benefit concerts for fellow musicians who have suffered major health issues. And with musicians, if you are sick, you don’t play. And if you don’t play, you can’t earn a living, let alone pay for health care visits or procedures.”

Gussetti said let the music community know that there are options for affordable health care.

“Unfortunately,” RIM-HOF chair Robert Billington said, “most in the music community make the hard decision to live without proper preventive health care, skipping routine annual exams and turning down medical services” because they can’t afford them or high deductibles, effectively denying themselves basic care.  

To commemorate their 45th anniversary, Roomful of Blues recorded a live CD at The Ocean Mist in Wakefield and asked the Sunday audience for a donation to the ‘Tune In & Tune Up’ instead of admission.

Dr. Shah is a board certified internist; his ABC Initiative, the first of its kind in the country, was designed to be an alternative to health insurance. Requiring a one-year commitment, it is a membership-based health care program ideal for individuals and employers who cannot afford health benefits or want to supplement high-deductible or catastrophic insurance. Dr. Shah’s two clinics are located at 100 Smithfield Ave. in Pawtucket, and 65 Eddie Dowling Hwy., in North Smithfield. Both are staffed seven days a week with board certified physicians and experienced assistants and nurse practitioners. 

“We at the ABC Initiative couldn’t be more proud of our affiliation with the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame. We look forward to providing our state’s musicians with basic preventive health care,” said Dr. Shah.

There is a $90 enrollment fee and $45-a-month payment that provides unlimited scheduled appointments, urgent care, unlimited sick visits, and comprehensive annual exams, including blood tests and x-rays. Dr. Shah negotiated a generic drug price with Stop & Shop pharmacies for 200 prescription drugs for a $10 co-pay. Dr. Shah provides the accepted patients with pre-existing medical conditions and patients can enroll even if they already carry some level of insurance.

The public’s introduction to the program will be a formal announcement on Wednesday, March 27 at 7 p.m. in the Blackstone River Theatre, 549 Broad St., Cumberland. Rhode Island’s professional music community is encouraged to attend. Reserve a spot by emailing russell@riverfolk.org. Seating is limited and the presentation will be followed by a Q&A session.


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